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Samson’s Classroom {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

October 28, 2012

I’m always anxious to try out new language programs for my kids.  Recently The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew was asked to review an online language program called Samson’s Classroom.  Three of my children were in the correct age range, so we jumped at the chance to participate.
Samson's Classroom Logo
Samson’s Classroom is an online language arts program for Kindergarten through the 5th grade.  It is divided into three different sections:  Sight Words, Spelling, and Reading.  When you subscribe to one you get them all!  The Sight Words section consists of 224 of the most commonly used words in the English language while the Spelling section has a reservoir of over 5,000 words!  All three sections incorporate games for engaging students’ attention and promoting learning.  All new product upgrades are added to your subscription at no extra cost.

Sight Words with Samson is separated into five different steps.  First you choose a list for your student, (there are 28 pre-loaded lists of 8 words each).  Then your student starts at step one:  Learn Words.   The narrator, a very gentle man’s voice, says the word, then spells it, then uses it in a sentence.  Your student can listen to it as many times as he likes and then he clicks “next word” to advance.  After listening and studying all 8 words in the list, your child then advances to step two:  Build Words.  Here, the narrator asks the student to spell the sight words by choosing letters from across the top of the screen.  Step three is Identify Words.  All the words are scattered about on the screen and Samson calls out a single word.  The student selects the correct word from the mix and Samson does tricks to praise the student, then moves on to the next word.  If your child selects the word incorrectly, he is instructed that he is incorrect and a small red “x” appears over the word he chose.  The narrator then repeats the word and sentence and your child then gets to choose again.  Step four is Spell Words.  A list of the alphabet is now supplied to the student and the word and sentence are said aloud by the narrator.  Your child must then click on the letters in order to spell the word correctly.  Finally, Step five:  Missing Word.  The narrator again says the word and uses it in a sentence.  The student must choose the correct word from above the four  treasure chests.  When the right word is chosen, Samson pops out and retrieves the gem inside the chest.  If the wrong word is chosen, the correct word is shown but instead of getting a chance to choose again, the word is marked as incorrect and the narrator moves on to the next word.  At any time during the steps, your child can click on “hear again” for the narrator to repeat the word.  (This is especially nice when you forget to turn the sound on at first.  This happened to us a few times.)
Sight Words with Samson
The next section is Spelling with Samson.  There are four games in the Spelling section:  The Study Zone, Missing Letters, Spelling Scramble, and Crunch Time.  The Study Zone is just an area for your student to study the spelling list.  In the study zone you can print your spelling list with the corresponding sentences or you can just click on a word to hear the word spoken, hear it spelled or hear the narrator use it in a sentence.    Under Missing Letters Samson is decked out in a karate uniform standing behind three letter choices.  The narrator says the spelling word and uses it in a sentence.  The word is partially spelled above Samson’s head.  You have to choose from what’s in front of Samson the letter or letters that are missing from the word.  Your student clicks on the missing letter(s) and Samson karate chops that block.  If your student is correct, the board breaks and points are received.  If your student is incorrect, Samson needs to rub his sore hand or arm and your student chooses again.  He also loses points for each incorrect answer.  For Spelling Scramble, your child controls Samson and sends him running from a spider to pick up letters that are scattered all over the board.  If the spider catches Samson he will get wrapped up in a web.  But never fear, he frees himself and continues to pick up the remaining letters.  After all the letters have been collected, the narrator asks the student to unscramble a few letters at a time to make the spelling words.  Finally, for Crunch Time Samson is balancing on a small ice burg.  The student is asked to type a spelling word into the blank and hit enter.  If he takes too long to respond correctly, Wally the walrus will come bite off part of Samson’s ice burg.  If the student takes more than the allotted time or if he answers incorrectly, the walrus will eat the entire ice burg and Samson will become an ice cube.  If the student types the letters correctly before Wally consumes the ice burg, Samson jumps to the next ice burg and a new word must be typed onto the screen.  After all the spelling words have been typed, Samson crawls into a igloo and the game is over.  You gain and lose points on this game as well based on correct and incorrect answers.

Spelling with Samson
On Reading with Samson, students read a selection of text and then answer a multiple choice question.  If the question is answered incorrectly a hint is given to help the student find the correct answer.  If the correct answer is found with the hint, it is noted that the answer is correct but that a hint was used.  If the correct answer was still not found even with the hint, it is marked incorrect and the correct answer is revealed.  Although Reading with Samson is mostly reading comprehension and word study, there is a game called Hammer Time that can be played for a little break.  It has no educational value that I could tell, but it could be used as a stress reliever.

My children were in agreement with their opinions on this review.  The 5th, 3rd, and 1st grader all liked the Spelling with Samson and Sight Words with Samson the best.  None of them really enjoyed reading the passages in the Reading with Samson section and answering questions about what they read.  However, for me, I thought this section was wonderful practice for them for standardized testing purposes and for letting someone (ok, something) other than mom be responsible for their reading comprehension!  They all liked the karate chopping section and my daughter especially liked the walrus in Crunch Time.  The first grader had some trouble with the timed typing in Crunch Time but he liked the other games.  He especially liked running around picking up the letters in the spider game.  He got a wee bit frustrated that the spider always seemed to catch him – the spider was pretty fast, but since he’d get freed again it all worked out to his satisfaction.  Also, since he cannot read yet, the Reading section of Samson was lost on him.

My opinion?  I believe that the people at Samson’s Classroom are top notch based on the customer service a few of my crew mates received.  It seems to me that they really want to make an excellent product even better and are open to suggestions from those that use Samson.  There is a resource center on the site that gives you ways to print flash cards and has lesson plans, articles, and worksheets to help with your teaching experience.  My children all enjoyed the games and learning that came with the family subscription.  I enjoyed the practice they got that didn’t require me to be right beside them, monitoring their every move and answering a gazillion questions.  This was a great program to promote independent learning and I would suggest it for homeschooling families that want to increase the literacy skills of their children.

Samson’s Classroom is available for one student at $30 per year or 4 students at $50 per year. Classroom pricing is also available.  For more information, check out the three minute video demonstration.  Additionally, there is a classroom demo section so you try it before you buy it.

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DISCLAIMER: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary family subscription to Samson’s Classroom for the purpose of completing this review. All the opinions expressed here are my own and are offered honestly in exchange for the product. The receipt of the product in no way influenced my honest assessment.
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